Every Relationship is different but my approach has always been relatively the same.
I try because I want to. Not because I am hoping for something in return. This includes trying even when I'm having a shitty day, I'm upset, and especially when things feel rocky. Putting in 0 effort sure isn't going to strengthen the bond or contribute to a healthy relationship and it's pretty silly trying to retaliate by being a lesser, meaner version of myself. Sure, putting effort in might not fix a specific, unrelated problem, but at least I won't be making it worse! Studies have shown that when we give to others it actually makes us happier than when all we do is take!
2. Treat the person how I expect to be treated.
This might seem simple and very obvious. However, there's been so many times I hear about or witness people doing something in their relationship and yet they would be upset, distraught, angry,or disappointed if their partner was doing the exact same thing. A really quick way to check yourself is to ask "How would I feel if my partner was doing _______________to me?" You'll have to step away from your ego, and not automatically lean toward the answer that gives you permission to go ahead and doing what you were going to do in the first place. Really think about how it would make you feel, take your time and do your best to answer that question with honesty and integrity. Take a step back and look at it for what it is and what it could potentially mean for your relationship.
3. Learn The Love Languages
Knowing your partner's love language and being aware that everyone is different can be very effective. Gary Chapman covers 5 "Love Languages" which can helps us have a better understanding of how we show love vs. how we receive it. For me, this has been super eye opening and beneficial. There are also quizzes for children, teens and singles. Here is the link to find out what your love language is: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/
Disclaimer: It has come to my attention that Gary Chapman the writer of the book "The 5 Love
Languages" is homophobic. Though I am mentioning his work in this blog because it has helped me understand more about myself, I want to be very clear that I do not condone or support hate, intolerance or bullying towards others, Love is love!
4. Have Hard Conversations
I know, It can feel intimidating which is why sometimes it can seem easy for us to be avoidant, sweep things under the rug or suffer in silence. A lot of folks aren't taught how to have effective conversations without judgement or having it turn into a huge argument, which can be really damaging in the long run! Communication is a skill and if you're willing to learn how to communicate with your partner in a solution oriented way: "you and me vs. the problem," and not in a destructive "you vs. me" way it will only strengthen your relationship and bring you closer. Learning and practicing good communication can be intimidating, it may feel uncomfortable, stressful or scary but I promise it's worth it. If you are going to get defensive, make personal attacks or be disrespectful to your partner, these conversations and eventually the relationship won't have a very happy ending. Ha-ha, happy ending.
5. Enhance Their Life, Don't Ruin It.
Be the best fucking partner you can be. Everyday. Like I mentioned in number 1: Try. Try because you want to be with your loved one. Try because you genuinely want to be a good partner and actively participate in the relationship. I know what some of you might be thinking. "Try, everyday? Enhance their life? They should be in charge of their own happiness!" I know, this seems like a big ask but just hear me out.
Life is messy. Times get tough and sometimes our relationships are put on the back burner while we focus relentlessly on our work, taking care of the kids, preparing for the holidays, or whatever else life throws our way that takes up all of our time and energy. But what would those busy times look like if you took a few minutes out of your day to let your partner know: "I'm still here, I'm still committed, and you are still a priority." You can do this through small gestures that take literally two minutes: Leave a meaningful note for them or grab their favourite snack or some flowers while you're at the store. Even something as simple as a six second kiss with no expectations of sex or a meaningful hug can make a world of difference! Fun Fact: Hugging helps reduce stress, releases dopamine and releases oxytocin. If you have the space and energy, you can even do things that take 20 minutes, or 2 hours to show your partner that you are still emotionally invested even if you can't spend as much time together as you'd like to and don't be afraid to get creative! Hint: Knowing your partner's love language will help you show them appreciation and love in a way that they will respond to. Just remember, you are doing these things because you want to. Not because you are keeping score.
From my experience, it will bring a whole new wave of ease and comfort into the relationship. If both partners are actively participating even when things are crazy busy. It can be very beneficial, especially during times we may feel stressed, alone or disconnected from one another. Those little gestures bring reassurance, joy and appreciation to the relationship, which can completely change the dynamic and activate a sense of closeness, even if you're experiencing barriers or roadblocks that can cause you to feel as though you may be drifting apart.
I hope after reading this blog you will hug your partner a little tighter and a little longer.
I know that wont be the case for everyone, and thats OK! You may be cringing, feeling anxiety, resistance, or are not interested in anything i just said, (Thanks for at least finishing the blog though!) If this applies to you, I invite you to ask yourself "why?" This may be the perfect time to re-evaluate the relationship and why you're in it to begin with.